Why we should invest in getting more kids to read — and how to do it

By HARRY A. PATRINOSJIMMY GRAHAM, SEAN KELLYData shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates.
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates. (Photo: Liang Qiang / World Bank)BY HARRY A. PATRINOS ON MON, 06/12/2017

JIMMY GRAHAM, SEAN KELLY

It is estimated that more than 250 million school children throughout the world cannot read. This is unfortunate because literacy has enormous benefits – both for the individual and society. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. For a person, literacy is a foundational skill required to acquire advanced skills. These, in turn, confer higher wages and more employment across labor markets .

Over the past decade, there has been growing evidence that shows that interventions for getting young children to read work. The mostly successful pilots should be brought to scale in all countries where early grade reading is an issue. To increase awareness of the need to do so, a global early skills assessment that tests reading abilities should be created and widely disseminated, serving as a global benchmark.

There is widespread illiteracy in the early grades
In order to address the high rates of child illiteracy that pervade in developing countries, we believe that education funding should be shifted towards early primary education reading initiatives.

Data from Early Grade Readings Assessments (EGRAs) show that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Several cases illustrate how severe the problem is in some contexts: A program evaluation in Malawi found that 95 percent of second graders could not read a single word. Third graders do not necessarily perform much better. A regional sample in Haiti found that 48 percent of third grade students could not read a single word.

It is crucial that children learn to read in the early grades
In order to attain high literacy rates, children should be taught in the first few years of school. Research shows that it is more cost-effective to teach reading in early primary school than in higher levels. Cognitive research also shows that the optimal time to learn to read is the earlier grades. Shockingly, PISA test scores show that about half of the students that are finishing their primary education in middle-income countries are unable to comprehend the main message of basic texts. One way to address the illiteracy pandemic is through early grade reading interventions. Such interventions are typically geared towards first through third graders and are based on teacher training that improves the ability to teach literacy (for example, evidence-based, context-appropriate literacy curricula; simplified instructional content; follow-up coaching and support for teachers; supplementary instructional and reading materials; training and tools for student assessment).

Early reading interventions have regularly proven cost-effective
Early reading interventions have had consistently large impacts, as is clear from the results from the impact evaluations from 13 countries that have that accrued over the past ten years from Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Tonga, Rwanda, the Philippines, and Senegal.  While the relative impacts vary, all early grade reading interventions almost always have major impacts on critical literacy indicators. The reading programs are cost-effective.

Source: Data taken from the individual country evaluations cited above,
except for Malawi and Egypt and Jordan 

Moving forward: Changing priorities and underscoring the problem
We know how to begin addressing this problem of high illiteracy rates – by scaling up early reading interventions. To do so, two steps should be taken.

  1. A global assessment should be created that tests students in the second to the fourth grade on basic reading skills. Such an assessment could be referred to as the Global Early Skills Assessment, or GESA. By highlighting the extent of illiteracy in simple terms (for example, the percentage of students that cannot read a single word) GESA may help give early grade reading the attention it deserves. It will also identify where the problem is most severe.
  2. Since people cannot take advantage of the high returns to secondary and tertiary education if they do not learn to read at a young age, education investments should be shifted heavily towards primary school. If there is a high rate of child illiteracy within a given country, public investment should prioritize primary education, especially results based on achieving early grade reading. Innovative financing approaches can be used to expand upper secondary and university education.

This blog is based on the report, The Case for Investing in Early Grade Reading.

First published on World Bank’s Education for Development blog.

News and Research 46: Early Childhood Development

Status of Early Childhood Health and Development in Northern Lao PDR  A recent study provides an in-depth picture of the status of children’s health and development, of the social, demographic and economic contexts in which children in northern Lao PDR are growing up, and of how all these factors are having an impact on children’s development. Read more  Infographics | Snapshots | Report | Project

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Reducing Early Grade Drop Out and Low Learning Achievement in Lao PDR  Participation in basic education in Lao PDR has improved steadily in recent decades. However, the country still faces persistent problems related to the significant number of children remaining out of school or leaving primary school early. Read more  Report | Project

 

Program for Herders’ pre-school children wraps up Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ Save the Children Mongolia and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports have successfully implemented a project that helps herders’ children make a good start to their education. The project demonstrated significant results for 8,500 herder children, their parents, teachers, community and rural areas. The project’s closing workshop was held at the Tuushin hotel on May 29, 2017. The project titled “Improving primary education outcomes for the most vulnerable children in rural Mongolia”, was conducted between 2012 and 2017 in 30 soums in Arkhangai, Dornod, Uvurkhangai and Sukhbaatar aimags with a total grant amount of USD 2.5 million financed by the World Bank and Japan Social Development Fund. The project created and implemented three programs to meet the learning and development needs of herders’ children in rural Mongolia.  First, over 4,000 five-years old herders’ children with little or no access to early childhood education completed the Home-based school preparation program with their parents’ help. As a result, the average rate of preschool enrollment in four target aimags increased by 13.2%,from 72.8% in the 2012-2013 academic year to 86% in 2016-2017. A World Bank study on the quality of preschool education found that the cognitive and language skills of  children who completed the home-based school preparation programs were better than those who had no access to early childhood education and that studying in ger kindergartens to prepare for school is crucial for children’s further learning and achievement…

 

Analyzing Upper Secondary Education Dropout in Latin America through a Cohort Approach This study examines recent trends and factors in school dropout at the upper secondary education level across Latin America. The methodology employs repeated cross sections of data to track the life cycle path of cohorts of individuals in 18 countries. A key finding is that while upper secondary enrollment rates increased in the region, dropout has remained persistently high, despite relatively favorable macroeconomic conditions. To explain dropout trends, the study examines the impact of three groups of factors: (i) shifts in the cohort size and socioeconomic composition of the population eligible for entering upper secondary; (b) the macroeconomic environment and labor market opportunities; and (c) the returns to schooling. We show that an important factor in persistently high dropout rates has been the higher numbers of students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds reaching upper secondary…

Test score difference halved due to subsidy from government to private schools for migrants in Shanghai As spaces in public schools are limited, a substantial number of migrant children living in Chinese cities but without local hukou are enrolled in private migrant schools. This paper studies the quality of migrant schools using data collected in Shanghai in 2010 and 2012. Although students in migrant schools perform considerably worse than their counterparts in public schools, the test score difference in mathematics has almost been halved between 2010 and 2012, due to increased financial subsidy from the government. We rule out alternative explanations for the convergence in test scores. We also conduct a falsification test and find no relative changes in the performance of migrant school students based on a follow-up survey of a new cohort of students in 2015 and 2016, a period with no changes in financial subsidies to migrant schools.

Special Issue: Progress toward a Literate World: Early Reading Interventions in Low- and Middle-Income Countries | New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development

New Estimates on Educational Attainment Using a Continuous Approach (1970-2010)

Understanding the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from China

China’s expansion of higher education: The labour market consequences of supply shock

Essays on Vulnerability and Inclusive Development in Developing Asia : a focus on Vietnam

New Estimates on Educational Attainment Using a Continuous Approach (1970–2010)

New evidence on the need for a multi-sectoral approach to reducing childhood stunting

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Economic Returns to Education in the United Kingdom

Labor market developments and reforms in Korea | Lee, Juho | 1997 This paper attempts to document the structural changes in the Korean labor market in the 1980s and the 1990s with special emphasis on the changes around 1987. We have investigated the…

Labor market reform and wage inequality in Korea | Kim, Hyeon-Kyeong | 2014 A large and growing literature discusses the causes of increasing Korean inequality. Off-shoring, greater exposure to the global market, and skill-biased technological change have figured…

Globalization, labor market flexibility and the Korean labor reform | You, JongIl | 1997 This paper addresses the question of labor market flexibility in Korea. It starts out with a conceptual discussion on different notions of labor market flexibility, identifying market-driven flexibility and…

Strategies for reforming Korea’s labor market | Dao, Mai | 2014 While the Korean unemployment rates are currently among the lowest in OECD countries, the labor market duality and the underemployment in some segments of the population…

Labour market reform and social safety net policies in Korea | OECD | 2000 Korea has experienced one of the most impressive economic records of modern capitalism. Following the Korean War, from which the country emerged as one of the poorest in the world,…

The politics of labor market reform in coordinated welfare capitalism: comparing Sweden, Germany, an | Fleckenstein, Timo | 2016 Since the 1990s, coordinated welfare capitalism has been subject to comprehensive change, with workfare measures and the deregulation of employment protection at the heart of labor…

Labor market reform | SaKong, Il | 2010 In restructuring corporations and financial institutions, the large-scale layoff of redundant workers was inevitable. However, militant labor unions had traditionally been afixture in these organizations…

News and Research 45: Happy and Smart Kids

Happy and Smart Kids: Three Lessons from the Netherlands  I just read The Happiest Kids in the World: Bringing up Children the Dutch Way by Doing Less by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison. It turns out that by relaxing more you can raise happy, well-adjusted, bright children. It’s great parenting advice. Dutch children are globally ranked Number 1 in happiness. Also, Dutch teens rank near the top of another global survey in terms of life satisfaction. The Netherlands accomplishes this through great traditions but also good policy. (The Dutch also have a great Christmas tradition, recounted here by David Sedaris, but that’s another story altogether.) Since 1917 the Netherlands has had school choice and today more than 2/3 of all schools are run privately, though all are equally funded by the state. Choice in the Netherlands comes as a surprise to many, including pro-choice advocates in the United States. But it is certainly not ignored for its progress. The Netherlands is consistently ranked high in academic achievement. Since 2003, among countries with continuous participation in PISA, the Netherlands on average ranks in the top 10, in fact, number 8 in the world in mathematics. What lessons can one draw from this experience?…[more]

happy

Be educated, be happy Learning is no entertainment.” Was Bruno Mars, an example of a talented person without formal skills, the one who coined this phrase? Nope. Aristotle did. If you want to be happy, then don’t engage in learning-related activities. This goes against the recent global trend in schooling. Many education systems in a variety of nations are leaving behind the concept of “no pain, no gain.” Many advanced countries now implement the concept of happy schools. In March, the World Bank and Australia’s Foreign Affairs and Trade ministries conducted a conference on “equitable and excellent basic education systems” in Jakarta…[more]

Vietnam urges for more autonomy for schools

Measuring Gender Equality

The World Wealth and Income Database (WID.world)

Management and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment

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Multilingual education helps children in north east Cambodia to learn at school

Research Digest Spring 2017 Issue now Online | Special Issue on Labor Market Issues

La educación de calidad es el antídoto

Happy and Smart Kids: 3 Lessons from the Netherlands

[From HuffPost]

I just read The Happiest Kids in the World: Bringing up Children the Dutch Way by Doing Less by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison. It turns out that by relaxing more you can raise happy, well-adjusted, bright children. It’s great parenting advice. Dutch children are globally ranked Number 1 in happiness. Also, Dutch teens rank near the top of another global survey in terms of life satisfaction. The Netherlands accomplishes this through great traditions but also good policy. (The Dutch also have a great Christmas tradition, recounted here by David Sedaris, but that’s another story altogether.)

Since 1917 the Netherlands has had school choice and today more than 2/3 of all schools are run privately, though all are equally funded by the state. Choice in the Netherlands comes as a surprise to many, including pro-choice advocates in the United States. But it is certainly not ignored for its progress. The Netherlands is consistently ranked high in academic achievement. Since 2003, among countries with continuous participation in PISA, the Netherlands on average ranks in the top 10, in fact, number 8 in the world in mathematics.

What lessons can one draw from this experience? There are three principal ones:

1. Educational freedom and choice. One of the key features of the Dutch education system is freedom of education (guaranteed under Article 23 of the Constitution) – freedom to establish schools and organize teaching. The country’s policies encourage innovation by providers; schools are not restricted to teaching the core curriculum; and they can tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of the specific students they teach. Schools are also able to select teachers and set wage and salary increases. There is relative ease of entry of new providers. A small number of parents can and do propose to start a school. Government is required to provide initial capital costs and ongoing expenses, while the municipality provides buildings. The school choice system creates a healthy dose of competition. Coupled with transparent achievement results dissemination by the national inspectorate, the competition leads to improved academic results. School rankings published in the national newspaper Trouw led to significance quality improvements by schools with relatively low rankings. Yet, even with high overall scores and seeming equity in performance, it is the case that private school attendance promotes academic performance. In fact, private school attendance is associated with higher test scores in math, reading and science. The reason for that is that in the Netherlands, private school choice is not the preserve of the rich. In fact, it is relatively less educated parents that send their children to private schools.

2. Regulations and policy apply to the whole system, public and private. Moreover, it is municipal authorities that manage public schools; the central Ministry of Education oversees all schools through regulation and policy. The Netherlands has a well-developed policy environment for engaging the private sector in education. While the freedom to organize teaching means that schools are free to determine how to teach, still the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science does impose a few statutory standards in relation to the quality of education. The country also has a high level of school accountability. Information has been publicly available from the Dutch Inspectorate of Education since 1998. The Education Inspectorate is charged by the Minister of Education with supervising the way schools fulfill their responsibilities.

3. A focus on equity. Schools must admit all pupils and most pursue non-restrictive admissions policies. Money follows students and each school receives for each student enrolled a sum equivalent to the per student cost of public schooling. The school that receives the funds is then entitled to funding that will cover specified amounts of teacher salaries and other expenses. There is, despite school choice and diversity of supply, no significant elite school sector, and private schools are run not-for-profit. The government also increases funding to meet specific student needs.

Moreover, the Netherlands delivers these results while spending considerably less than most other countries. While the specific policies are uniquely Dutch, the system characteristics are eminently adaptable in other countries. There are in fact several jurisdictions that follow similar policies.

News and Research 44: Autonomous Higher Education

 

 

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World Bank funds US$155 Million to Support Autonomous Higher Education in Vietnam  The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved today US$155 million in financing to strengthen the research, teaching, and institutional capacity of three autonomous universities and improve the management of Vietnam’s higher education system.  More than 150,000 students and 3,900 members of faculty will benefit from the investments for Vietnam’s National University of Agriculture, the University of Science and Technology in Hanoi, and the Industry University of Ho Chi Minh City. Some 600,000 students and 27,000 lecturers from other higher education institutions will also broaden their learning resources by gaining access to a digital library at the National Economics University…The project will support the financing of new facilities and equipment for teaching and research, as well as the strengthening management systems. Science and technology universities as well as research-oriented institutions will benefit, so that lessons can be generalized to inform policies on autonomy and quality assurance for the universities…

Extreme selection methods spark China education storm…Shanghai private schools assess parents and grandparents along with prospective pupils

Pakistan to cooperate with N Chinese port city in vocational education

Cognitive ability, parenting and instruction in Vietnam and Germany

Implications for Teacher Training and Support for Inclusive Education in Cambodia: An Empirical Case Study in a Developing Country

Paying for education in Dubai: is it really worth it?

Hands-on work beats theory, Hong Kong vocational educators using VR technologies say

School for refugee children, run by refugees in Indonesia

 

Coping with change: International differences in the returns to skills

Earnings over the Life Course: General versus Vocational Education

Tills and skills: How to prepare America’s retail workers for technological change

Make education free of charge?

Compensation, Diversity and Inclusion at the World Bank Group

News and Research 43: What are Non-cognitive Skills?

returnsNon-cognitive skills: What are they and why should we care? With trends such as automation causing fundamental shifts in the labor market, research is increasingly looking at the value of non-cognitive skills or socioemotional skills…

My latest with Psacharopoulos: Education Financing Priorities in Developing Countries

 

Rigorous Preschool Research Illuminates Policy (and Why the Heckman Equation May Not Compute)

Do Democracies Provide Better Education? Revisiting the Democracy-Human Capital Link

Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It

Using Artificial Intelligence As a Teaching Assistant To Help With Questions Online

The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers

IS higher education a public good?

Compensation, Diversity and Inclusion at the World Bank Group  This paper examines salary gaps by gender and nationality at the World Bank Group between 1987 and 2015…

Will the robot war on jobs change higher education?